Celebrating our contributions to polar research

This week, Montreal is hosting the International Polar Year conference, IPY 2012: From Knowledge to Action. IPY 2012 brings together over 3000 international experts from across a variety of fields, with the ambitious agenda of using the knowledge accumulated by researchers during international polar year activities, and developing concrete actions to move forward.

Module C connected to Module E1. Halley VI site (Credit: BAS)

Halley VI research station (credit: British Antarctic Survey)

The polar regions of our planet hold a special mystique, buried under snow and ice, and their extreme weather conditions have posed a challenge to many of our historical adventurers (Robert Falcon Scott). But they are also very fragile environments, particularly sensitive to climate fluctuations, populated with flora and fauna that have specifically adapted to their extreme climates.

The Antarctic stands apart as its own continent at the southernmost point of the earth’s rotational axis. While the Antarctic (Southern Polar region) does not have a permanent human population, it is governed by the (international) Antarctic treaty, which sets aside Antarctica as a scientific preserve, and prohibits any military activity (the treaty originally signed by 12 signatories, currently has 49 signatory nations).

The Arctic (Northern Polar region) by contrast is defined as anything north of the Arctic Circle (66° 33’N), and includes portions of Canada, Russia, Greenland, the United States, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland. As such, it is also very socially and politically different than the Antarctic, having not only adapted flora and fauna, but indigenous populations.

The BBC’s Frozen Planet series explores both of these fascinating places, the flora the fauna and the peoples that live in these extreme environments. Elizabeth White (@BBCExplorer_ew), Director and Co-Producer of the Frozen Planet series joined us Wednesday evening at IPY, for a viewing of Frozen Planet episode: On thin Ice at the Polar Film Festival, happening in parallel to IPY.

Afterwards she took time to record a short video on her experiences in the polar regions. The video also includes architect Hugh Broughton, who designed the Halley VI Research Station used by the British Antarctic Survey.

In addition to Elizabeth White, there is a strong UK research presence at IPY. This includes the British Antarctic Survey, and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Arctic Research Program, who have researchers and a booth on site. There is also a strong group from the Scott Polar Research Institute (University of Cambridge)

This conference aims to examine the global impact and implications of International Polar Year (2007-2008) activities, and to develop collaborative strategies for addressing them. We hope by working together to move towards this ambitious goal.

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